With a population of close to 4 million, Dubai is the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates. Therefore, the question of how to get around Dubai is an essential one.
Although it is a city of cars, many other options are available to visitors. Equally important, these options are cheaper than renting a car.
That being said, let’s look at all the options in the city that never sleeps.
The Dubai Metro is one of the most beautiful metro in the world. Not only does it serve most of Dubai’s districts but it’s an architectural marvel. Each station feels like a luxury mall, where platforms and trains are air-conditioned. The cleanliness reminded me of Singapore Mass Rapid Transit.
Two lines make-up the metro network: Red and Green.
As mentionned, the Red line crosses the city from its southermost point at UAE Exchange station, with a turn eastward across Deira all the way to the airport at Al Rashidiya station. The line is 52km long and features driverless trains!
The 20 stations Green line is u-shaped. The Southern part of the U starts at the Creek head (Creek station) all the way to the other end of the Creek, turns across Deira with an end in Al Qusais area (Etisalat station) North of the airport. You can connect to the Red line at BurJuman and Union stations.
Fares go from 3.5AED to 7.5AED (C$1.20-C$2.58). The most expensive rate covers 3 zones or more. Hence you can hop in metro at one of the airport stations and head to the last station of the red line, a 45km ride for less than C$3!
You can plan your journey using the RTA tool.
The Dubai Abra is a boat service in Dubai Creek. Coupled with the metro, this ferry service is a lot of fun and inexpensive.
The motorized traditional abra will connect the North and South shores of the Creek. It only costs AED1 to cross (C$0.25). Riding the abras is a landmark Dubai experience.
You can rent your car at the airport. All of the major car rental companies are available. But be aware that picking-up a rental car is a paperwork-heavy process. Therefore, it’ll eat up a lot of your time. As you land in after 1 or 2 long haul flights, this may be the last thing you want to do.
What you can do is head to your hotel and rent your car at city branch after you’ve had one or two nights of sound sleep. Some companies will even bring the car to your hotel allowing your to enjoy more time at the pool.
Dubai has toll gates. It’s AED4 ($C1.25) for every Salik Passing. There are 8 operational electronic toll road Salik Gates in the city:
- Al Garhoud Bridge
- Al Mamzar South
- Al Mamzar South
- Al Safa
- Al Barsha
- Al Maktoum
- Airport Tunnel Gate
- Jebel Ali
All rental car have a Salik tag. Furthermore, note that most car rental companies will charge you an extra AED1 per passing.
Kayak and Rentalcars.com do a great job at finding the best discounted rates. Otherwise, all major car rental companies are available at the airport and in the city. You’ll need your International Driver Permit.
International Driving Permit
The UAE require foreign visitors to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP is a proof of a valid driver’s license that is issued by your local authority (province, state, government). Furthermore, car rental agencies will also ask you to produce your IDP.
You can get an International Driving Permit if you meet these 3 requirements:
- You’re 18 years or older
- Hold a valid driver’s licence issued by your province or state. Learner’s and suspended licences are excluded
- 2 identical passport-sized photos
An IDP will cost C$25, plus approximately C$15 for the passport-sized photos. You can have it on the spot at your local CAA boutique Once issued, the IDP is valid for one year. Make sure you get it, otherwise the car rental company will decline service and cancel your booking. For more details, check the CAA faq.
Careem, Uber & Taxi
The fastest way to get around Dubai is by car. Combining Dubai Metro and car hailing services will save you money on car rental and parking fees.
Taxis tend to be cheaper than Careem and Uber, particularly of bigger car requests. Keep in mind that you still have to foot the Salik toll fee and a 5% VAT applies to your total Careem, Uber and taxi fare.
This is beacause the Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) is owned and operated by the Roads and Transport Authority Dubai (RTA). The corporation was designed to accommodate locals riders and tourists with competitive rates.
I personnally have used RTA taxis and have been extremely happy with the drivers’ professionalism and honesty. During our trip in September, my brother had left his smart phone in a cab. After reaching out to customer service, the phone was found and returned by the driver himself. He had driven more than an hour, off work. We generously rewarded his time and honesty.
The downside with Uber or Careem is that their drivers don’t know Dubai well. Remember there are no address numbers in Dubai streets. Therefore calling a ride can be hellish if it’s off big and known venues. I’ve experienced myself and I learnt to stick to taxis.
Dubai offers a variety of ways to getting around the city. You can refer to my full Dubai guide for all aspects of your upcoming trip to the city that never sleeps.
It’s best to start with venues that are easily accessible by metro. These areas are Dubai Creek (Bur & Deira), Downtown Dubai, Marina. As you choose to go further cabs will come in handy.
A car rental will be necessary and economical if you are moving around as a small group and intend on driving outside of Dubai.